[ RadSafe ] Bill to exempt SNF shipments from Hazmat Regulations

Jim Hardeman Jim_Hardeman at dnr.state.ga.us
Sun Apr 16 18:41:22 CDT 2006

Colleagues * 
I know that some of you are interested in high-level radioactive waste disposal and radioactive materials transportation issues. Those of you that aren't can hit the DELETE key now ... those of you that are, please see the following articles from the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News ...
URL = http://www.sltrib.com/ci_3713478
URL = http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,635199891,00.html
Bottom line is that on April 6, 2006, Sen. Domenici (on his own behalf and for Sen. Inhofe) introduced S. 2589, the "Nuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act". Among other things, this Act, if enacted, would exempt spent fuel shipments bound for Yucca Mountain from the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA) ...
Just thought y'all would like to know. GPO has not published a PDF of the bill yet, but you can find the text in the Congressional Record at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?r109:1:./temp/~r109rDdDkI:e231042: (pages S3237 - 3239 of the 2006 Congressional Record)
Feds want states out of nuclear shippingBound for Yucca: Utah, other Western states want to have a chance to inspect, reroute the cargoBy Robert Gehrke 
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake TribuneWASHINGTON - Western governors say shipping nuclear waste could be riskier under a Bush administration proposal to keep states from inspecting or rerouting waste bound for Yucca Mountain, Nev. 
    The Yucca Mountain bill, written by the Energy Department and introduced last week by Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., exempts Yucca shipments from federal hazardous materials regulations and any state regulation. 
    The transportation provisions "could seriously undermine shipment safety and public confidence," Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano wrote Thursday in a letter on behalf of the Western Governors Association. 
   According to an Energy Department analysis, between 8 million and 11 million people nationwide live within a half-mile of the potential truck or rail routes to Yucca Mountain. The waste would travel through as many as 45 states and 700 counties. Yucca Mountain's capacity is now capped at 77,000 tons of spent fuel, although the new Bush administration proposal would raise the limit to 120,000 tons, potentially increasing the amount of traffic going through Utah on its way to the site. 
    Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has expressed concern about the waste shipments, most of which would cross Utah on their way to Nevada, and supports leaving the waste at the reactors that produced it. 
   "It's important to take into account the viewpoints of affected states on issues involving nuclear waste because nuclear waste is an issue that affects people very locally," said Huntsman's spokesman, Mike Lee. "There is an understandable reluctance on the part of states like ours to have any [of the] limited authority we now have further eroded." 
    Energy Department spokesman Craig Stevens said the goal of the provision is to ensure that there is "consistent treatment" for DOE shipments, so standards don't change when a shipment crosses from one jurisdiction to the next. 
    "We believe what we're going to do will either meet or exceed the [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] or Department of Transportation requirements. What we're going to do is better than the minimum and is a safe and responsible method of transportation," Stevens said. "In no way does it diminish our commitment to trying to work with states and tribes moving forward." 
   Oregon Gov. Theodore Kulongoski wrote a separate letter to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman this week, opposing the pre-emption of state regulations, praising DOE's track record of cooperation with the states, and urging that the provisions be stripped from the bill. 
   Although it is more than a decade behind schedule, the Energy Department hopes to open a permanent nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain by 2015. If it becomes a reality, Utah could see more than 10,000 rail shipments and nearly 2,400 truck shipments of spent nuclear fuel rolling through the state. 
   Bob Halstead, a transportation consultant for Nevada's anti-Yucca campaign, said he expects the transit provisions in the Energy Department bill to be constroversial on two fronts. 
   "First they exempt DOE from safety and counterterrorism regulations that most people both in the industry and the state government level think are working," he said. "Secondly they go so far in exempting DOE from these regulations that it raises doubts in my mind that the bill can be passed with those provisions in there." 
   Specifically, Napolitano's letter expresses concern that the Bush administration's proposal would exempt shipments to Yucca Mountain from federal hazardous materials statutes, and would pre-empt state, tribal and local laws that allow state inspections of shipments or rerouting of shipments away from high-risk areas. 
   It is also contrary to a recent report by the National Academies of Science that said spent fuel could be shipped safely under "strict adherence to existing regulations." 
   "We urge you not to enact any legislation that diminishes states' role in ensuring safe transportation of these materials at the very time that the amount of shipments would dramatically increase," Napolitano wrote. 
   gehrke at sltrib.com 


Western governors assail nuclear waste billThey fear it would weaken states' say in shipment safety
By Suzanne Struglinski
Deseret Morning News 
      WASHINGTON * Pending nuclear-waste legislation in the U.S. Senate has the Western Governors' Association concerned that it would weaken the states' role in regulating shipments of used commercial nuclear fuel or any radioactive material.
      The Energy Department has proposed a bill to Congress that addresses the government's plan to store nuclear waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain. The measure contains provisions that would change federal rules on everything from the legal limit of waste the mountain can hold to how it gets there.
      If the Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows the department to move forward with its plan to build a nuclear-waste storage site at Yucca, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, potential train or truck shipment routes could go through Salt Lake City.
      "We urge you not to enact any legislation that diminishes the states' role in ensuring safe transportation of these materials at the very time that the amount of shipments would dramatically increase," wrote WGA Chairman and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano. "It proposes, in fact, an unwarranted change from the way nearly two decades of non-classified DOE shipping campaigns have been planned for and conducted."
       Napolitano sent the letter to the bill's sponsor, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who heads the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the committee's top Democrat, Jeff Bingaman, also of New Mexico, as well as all the committee members and all senators from Western states.
      "We are concerned that the portions of the bill related to transportation could seriously undermine shipment safety and public confidence, key to successful repository operation," Napolitano wrote.
      When it released the bill on April 5, the Energy Department highlighted that it would withdraw public lands from the area around the mountain, change how Congress can allocate money to it and eliminate the 77,000-ton cap on the waste to be stored there.
      But Napolitano wrote that the Western governors take issue with other provisions that would exempt Yucca Mountain shipments from the Hazardous Materials Transportation Authorization Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, federal laws designed to protect public health and safety.
      "Bypassing these proven and widely accepted federal frameworks for transportation safety, particularly at the same time that significant shipment increases of these materials would heighten public concern, is inappropriate," she wrote.
      The bill, if approved, would also allow the Energy and Transportation secretaries to pre-empt any state, tribal or local law or regulation, even those permitted under the current regulatory framework for transporting the waste.
      Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman toured the tunnel at Yucca Mountain for this first time Thursday and talked about the bill.
      "The legislation will allow us to provide stability, provide clarity, as well as predictability to the Yucca Mountain project," he said, "and will help lay a solid foundation for America's future energy security." 

Contributing: The Associated Press
E-mail: suzanne at desnews.com 

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